Smart Solutions & Cool Hacks to Keep Your House Cool This Summer
As we head into February and the mercury starts to soar, keeping cool is an issue on almost everyone’s mind. So what do you do? Well, it depends. On a few things. Your style of house, its location, materials and level of insulation will determine the action you should take. Then, there’s the issue of reality, meaning: whether the house is yours to make alterations, there’s money in the bank and your future plans align with your current abode.
Living in a poorly insulated or uninsulated home is arguably copping the ‘short straw’ of Aussie homes – but it’s an issue that you have to deal with. You have three choices:
- Deploy some clever and cool hacks (particularly if the house isn’t yours/funds are tight),
- Invest in some decent insulation throughout your home,
- Rebuild, factoring in essential passive home design elements that help keep your home cool in summer without having to spend a bucketload.
Clever (&) cool hacks
If you can’t change anything structural to your home, try some clever hacks to keep you cool ’til the heat waves subside.
- Shut your home early in the day and keep it shut for as long as the temperature is cooler inside than out.
- Cover windows that are exposed to the sun and heat. Consider even using tinfoil on windows directly facing the sun. Alternatively, purchase some cheap shade cloth from Bunnings; cut it larger than the window, then adhere it to the window any way you can.
- Keep the air circulating with a fan or air conditioner.
- Try the fan hack: position a couple of ice packs or a bucket of ice of your fan on positioning it so the fan blows the chilled air through the room.
- Sleep on ‘cool’ sheets rather than winter-weight or flannelette sheets and shop for ‘cool’ gel pillows for hot sleepers. Try dampening the sheets and popping them in the freezer for a much-welcomed chill at bedtime!
- Got a spare sheet? Dampen it and hang it over a window that is welcoming a breeze into your home. The air will be immediately cooled by the moisture. N.B. this is the same principle as the historic Coolgardie safe; water requires energy to evaporate, so it uses some of the heat as energy, leaving the remaining air that passes through the drying sheet cooler.
- Sleep at the lowest part of the house, remembering that hot air rises.
- Extract the hot air by turning on your kitchen exhaust fan or bathroom fans.
- Usually, in the evenings, the air will be cooler outside than inside a non-insulated home, so let the breeze in.
- Consider using an outdoor air mister (again, bought cheaply from Bunnings) which can have a significant cooling effect on the shaded patio area. Plus, they’re lots of fun!
Don’t forget your furry/feathered friends
Keep caged animals hydrated and in the shade, and for dogs and cats, add ice cubes to their drinking water, wet their fur, give your dog a paddle pool or spray them with a hose. Or try cooling a ceramic tile in the freezer, then leaving it somewhere cool in the house for small dogs or cats to lie on. Above all, watch closely for signs of heat exhaustion.
Mid- to long-term fixes
- Insulate your ceilings. The air in your ceiling cavity can get as hot as 70° in the summertime, so insulation can make a major difference to the temperature of your home.
- Fill in any gaps around windows, skirting boards, doors and wall vents that could allow the hot air to seep in.
- Consider double-glazing heat-exposed windows.
- Add awnings or patios as these cool the air directly outside your home and avoid the unpleasant buildup of radiant heat in a heat wave.
- Purchase insulated curtains or blinds. Keep in mind that external window coverings are far more effective in cooling a house on internal covers such as curtains (which are limited in their cooling abilities). External blinds will absorb heat and prevent the windows from contributing to radiant heat.
- Plant trees around your house. Over time, they will create much-needed shade, absorbing the sun’s hot rays which will cool your home.
- A swimming pool, large pond or water feature can have a cooling effect on the air near your home.
The ideal ‘cool house’ solution
Sometimes, the house we live in is never going to be cool enough for our scorching hot Aussie summers. And with climate change slowly making temperatures rise, this is an issue we all have to take seriously. So if your house is poorly designed and even significant changes are still going to lead to high energy bills and unhappy living, it may be time to build a new home. Starting afresh will give you the perfect opportunity to factor in appropriate insulated measures, such as building materials, house positioning, airflow, awnings, and much more, which you can read about here.